Brewing an Irish stout: it’s been a while. So long, in fact, that any delay from a little detour into history and personal remembrance won’t significantly prolong the wait. Let’s get a beverage before the second paragraph.
Ready? In 1792, William Beamish and William Crawford, Protestant Scotch-Irish landowners from the North, established a brewery in Cork City and set about brewing a porter (which was still produced until the 1960s – that would have been interesting to try). For the first decades of its existence, their Cork Porter Brewery was the largest brewery in Ireland. Eventually dry stout supplanted porter as the flagship, eventually the name of the brewery was changed to Beamish & Crawford. A series of acquisitions and consolidations pepper its history, culminating with a sale to Heineken, which closed the brewery in 2009. Production of Beamish Stout moved over to Heineken Brewery Ireland (formerly Murphy’s Lady’s Well Brewery) and it is no longer exported to the US. Too bad for me.
Years ago when I spent a semester studying abroad in North Ireland, Beamish Stout wasn’t the outlier or afterthought that it seemed to be back here in the states (when we could still get it, that is). Guinness was, of course, ubiquitous, as it is here: the first-cited stylistic example, the default nitro faucet at the bar. Murphy’s was actually harder to find in Ulster, at least where I was. Beamish, with its Protestant connotation, seemed more common at my local (okay, locals) in Antrim than in pubs in the Republic until you hit its hometown of Cork in the far south.
On a holiday trip to Cork, I remember waking up in a hostel to the sounds of the Shandon bells and meeting some friends at a pub/restaurant with a harbor view to eat our way through various Atlantic fish species chased with pints of Beamish: chocolaty with a subtle suggestion of bready, toffee sweetness, a creamy texture (it did have that in common with the other two Irish stouts) and a bitter, dry finish.
Michael Jackson, in the 1993 edition of his Beer Companion, lists Beamish at OG 1.039 and 4.2% abv, with
… a distinctly chocolaty note, some silkiness of body, and a very delicate hop character. Chocolate malt, rather than roast, provides the keynote, and some wheat is used to help the creaminess of texture, lacework, and head. The wheat was once raw, but is now malted, to improve fermentability and therefore lightness of body. The hops include Challenger, Goldings, and – unusually – German Hersbruck. The beer has 38-42 units of bitterness.
In a later book, Ultimate Beer, he writes that
As its competitors have become sweeter, in deference to “modern” tastes, Beamish Irish Stout has seemed by comparison drier. The beer is toasty, with buttery, creamy, and peppery notes in a late, lingering, dry finish.
The Classic Beer Styles Series title Stout was published after the 1995 sale of Beamish & Crawford to Scottish & Newcastle, and was more recent than Jackson’s Beer Companion by several years. Author Michael Lewis’s questionnaire of global stout producers coughed up these particulars on Beamish as it was brewed at the time:
- Specialty malts & adjuncts: ale malt, roast barley
- Yeast: special strain evolved from original yeast
- Hop form: pellet
- Bittering: Target, Challenger, Perle
- Aroma: Challenger, Goldings (added to kettle)
- Mash temp: 143°F
- Boil duration: 90 minutes
- Fermentation: 73°F for 75 hours
Today’s project is to brew a beer inspired by (not a clone of … “clone” is such a problematic concept) Beamish: a little more idiosyncratic and a little more baroque than a straight-ahead modern dry Irish stout. I’m going to lean more heavily on Jackson’s descriptions – since, personally, that beer sounds more interesting than the cleaned-up, stripped-down one suggested by the answers to Lewis’s later survey – and adapt the process to my system to still keep within the parameters.
Base malt will be Malting Company of Ireland’s Stout Malt – MCI actually grew out of Beamish & Crawford’s old floor maltings, so that’s a nice little tie-in. Chocolate malt and malted wheat as cited, and – because I do distinctly remember a toffee character in Beamish absent from the other two – I’m adding in a bit of very dark crystal malt (it’ll help darken the color a bit and add some body, too). Unconventional for a dry stout, certainly, but we’re brewing to memory and not style guidelines, and I’m not counting on getting that note out of the chocolate malt, wheat or yeast. On my system, 143°F would be an excessively low mash temp, but a citizen does need high fermentability in order to wring 4.2% abv out of a 1.040 wort.
I’m sticking with the Challenger/Goldings/Hersbrucker combo. Even though Challenger is only about 40 years old, that blend seems very retro – UK brewers of the 19th century made use of imported hops (from continental Europe and also America) to supplement domestic crops and keep up with massive brewery production. The almost even BU:GU ratio cited by Jackson, plus a little sidecar of aroma hops later on in the boil, even for a non-hoppy style, also seems like a throwback: a little extra insurance, a held-over acknowledgement of hops as preservative in the days before QC labs and microscopy. I don’t remember a late hop character in the Beamish I had, but that was a while ago now, and its presence is mentioned in more than one source, so I’m taking it on faith. The hop blend will be split into two separate kettle doses, but the aroma addition kept quite small – I mean, this isn’t a CDA. Snort.
Yeast – a bit of Zen archery here. I ended up on 1335 because I want a bit of English ester expression but lower diacetyl than would be had with 1084 or the like; and a healthy attenuation was a must.
Target OG: 1.040
- 74% MCI Stout Malt
- 11% Chocolate malt
- 7.5% Wheat malt
- 7.5% Patagonia Crystal 190
- 150°F for 75′
- 170°F for 10′
… using a blend of Challenger, East Kent Golding, and Hallertau Hersbrucker pellets –
- 90% of the blend at 60′ to a combined 38 IBU
- 10% of the blend at 15′ to a combined 2 IBU
- Chill wort to 68°F, O2 and inoculate with Wyeast 1335
- After TG reached, fine & keg for nitro dispense … stay tuned
Update: tasting notes here.